Northern Ireland news

Legal action launched over lack of Irish classes at Maghaberry jail

A republican prisoner in Maghaberry jail is set to legal action over a lack of Irish language classes
Connla Young

A failure by authorities at Maghaberry prison to provide Irish classes for inmates is a breach of the Good Friday Agreement, a campaign group has claimed.

The comments come after it emerged that lawyers acting for a republican prisoner started legal action after an Irish language teacher was not replaced.

It is understood no-one has been available to take the classes for around a year.

Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin from Conradh na Gaeilge last night claimed the "denial or removal of Irish classes is in contravention of the Good Friday Agreement and other international treaties, ratified by the British government, aimed at protecting and promoting the Irish language”.

“At a time when a record number of adults are engaging with the language and attending classes, the prison authorities should ensure that the prisoners' demand for Irish classes is met as they do for a broad suite of classes and courses to its prisoners and we can see no reason to withhold Irish classes.”

Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, confirmed that court action has started.

Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law

“This protracted failure to recruit a new Irish language teacher has given our client real concerns that there is no adequate justification for the delay and that the steps taken by the NIPS to recruit an Irish language teacher have been and continue to be unjustifiably inadequate,” he said.

“In any event, given that funding is in place for this post, the long-term and ongoing failure to appoint an Irish language teacher appears inherently unreasonable or irrational without further explanation.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said: “Learning and skills in the Prison Service is outsourced to our further education partners, Belfast Metropolitan College and North West Regional College, who are actively seeking to recruit teachers to provide Irish classes in Maghaberry and Magilligan prisons respectively.”

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